How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Video exemplifies SB 1070 confusion: Police can and do alert immigration authorites, even in CA

This video taken yesterday in Arizona is making the Twitter rounds via YouTube.

The video shows the arrest of a motorist in Tucson, stopped for a traffic violation, on grounds of her immigration status with the statement that SB 1070 is "in FULL effect." And it's an example of just how complicated and confusing matters have become following last week's ruling by a federal judge blocking certain sections of the law, which was partially implemented last Thursday.

One of the sections blocked by last week's injunction was a requirement that police attempt to ascertain the immigration status of people stopped or detained during regular law enforcement activity. However, just because there is no longer a requirement, there is nothing on the books preventing them from asking, either. A section of the law that was implemented last week allows the state to ban so-called "sanctuary" policies by law enforcement agencies or jurisdictions, i.e. policies that limit local officers' enforcement of federal immigration laws. The law as implemented also allows citizens to sue agencies that adopt such a policy.


As immigration politics play out, border deaths rise

desert helicopter

Photo by rejuvesite/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter over the Arizona desert

A few days before I left for Phoenix last week to cover the events surrounding SB 1070, Arizona's controversial anti-illegal immigration law, I posted on a darker story unfolding to the south: Just in the first two weeks of July, the bodies of 40 people believed to have crossed the border illegally had been delivered to the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office in Tucson.  Officials there were struggling with a crowded morgue and concerned that if the trend continued, July border-crossing deaths there would top their single-month record of 68 deaths in July 2005.

That did not happen, but according to the Homeland Security Department, but there is worse news: Year to date, overall border-crossing deaths in the U.S. Border Patrol's arid Tucson sector have topped those recorded by the agency during fiscal year 2005, the deadliest year on record along the entire southwest border, when 492 deaths were recorded border-wide.


While eyes are on Phoenix, a grim story unfolds to the south

Border fence at Imperial Sand Dunes, California

Photo by Eric White/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A stretch of border fence through the desert, Imperial Sand Dunes, California.

As the news media prepares to focus on Phoenix next week, when the state's controversial SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law is set to take effect, a grim aspect of the illegal immigration story is unfolding to the south.

Several Arizona media outlets reported last week that by mid-July, the bodies of 40 illegal border crossers had been brought to the office of the Pima County Medical Examiner in Tucson, so many that some of the bodies had to be stored in a refrigerated truck for lack of space. Officials there said that if the trend continues, the deaths could top the single-month record of 68 in July 2005, the highest number since the medical examiner's office began tracking them in 2000.


The legacy of a border road sign

Immigration Debate Reaches Crescendo Ahead Of Bush Speech

Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

A sign warning motorists to beware of people crossing the highway is seen on Interstate 5, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro, California in 2006.

Driving back and forth between Los Angeles and San Diego when I moved south several years ago, these old road signs along Interstate 5 began to catch my eye on a regular basis. The signs, illustrated by Caltrans artist John Hood, date back to the early 1990s, when the California-Mexico border was the nation's biggest funnel for illegal immigration traffic headed north, and human smugglers were hustling their charges across the freeway to evade checkpoints - all too often with tragic results. Pretty soon, I began seeing the image everywhere: on T-shirts, on coffee mugs, on little mini-road signs with the characters carrying surfboards. The more I searched, the more interpretations I found: murals,


In the news this morning

With Arizona's SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law set to take effect next week - and legal challenges to the measure being heard in court - much of the news this morning is out of Arizona.

  • The Tucson Sentinel posted this update last night on the SB 1070 hearings taking place in Phoenix, in which arguments were heard yesterday in two of the lawsuits challenging the law, including a federal government challenge on constitutional grounds.
  • The Los Angeles Times has this story on the economic fallout of undocumented immigrants leaving Arizona out of fear of SB 1070.
  • Fox News reports on a Latino GOP group announcing its support of the Arizona measure.
  • Spin has an interview with guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, which is reuniting for a show tonight at the Hollywood Palladium with proceeds to benefit two Arizona immigrant rights groups.
  • Several publications are now following yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune story pointing to a particular Utah state employee as a possible culprit in that state’s immigration hit list scandal.
  • The Wall Street Journal's legal blog is reporting on a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union over a Nebraska town’s anti-illegal immigration housing ordinance.
  • Finally, in the latest issue of the New Yorker, William Finnegan challenges some of political claims made about border crime and Border Patrol apprehensions.